Tolbert: A Dozen Arkansas House Races To Watch

by Jason Tolbert (jasontcpa@yahoo.com) 12 views 

Most of the attention this election cycle has been on the races at the top of the ticket.

But with the general consensus that Republicans will win most of the statewide races, the drama could be down the ballot on Tuesday night.

In the Arkansas House of Representatives, Republicans hold the majority with the slimmest of margins – 51 of 100 seats – and Democrats are hoping a small shift could tip the scales back in their favor. While possible, it would take an almost perfect night for them to do so.

Here’s why. The night begins with Republicans having 38 seats to Democrats 28 seats where neither candidate faces a general election opponent from the other major party. Another 34 seats will be decided on Tuesday.  Among these 34 races, around 10 are safe-to-lean GOP with another 12 safe-to-lean Democrat. This puts the GOP number at 48 and Democrats at 40 with 12 seats considered toss-ups.

Most pundits and political insiders believe these are the 12 key races to watch. (incumbent is in italics)

  • District 18 (Arkadelphia) – (R) Rep. Richard Womack v. (D) Damon Daniels
  • District 26 – (Malvern) – (R) Laurie Rushing v. (D) Rep. David Kizzia
  • District 32 (Little Rock – open – currently R) – (R) Jim Sorvillo v. (D) John Adams
  • District 35 (Little Rock – open – currently D) – (R) Stacey Hurst v. (D) Clarke Tucker
  • District 38 (North Little Rock) – (R) Donnie Copeland v. (D) Rep. Patti Julian
  • District 41 (North Little Rock- open – currently D) – (R) Karilyn Brown v. (D) Danny Knight
  • District 52 (Harrisburg – open – currently R) – (R) Dwight Tosh v. (D) Radius Baker
  • District 53 (Jonesboro) – (R) Dan Sullivan v. (D) Rep. Homer Lenderman
  • District 54 (Truman/Blytheville) (R) Dave Wallace v. (D) Rep. Wes Wagner
  • District 58 (Jonesboro) – (R) Brandt Smith v. (D) Rep. Harold Copenhaver
  • District 59 (Jonesboro –  open – currently D) (R) Jack Ladyman v. (D) Ron Carroll
  • District 63 (Batesville – open – currently D) (R) James Sturch v. (D) Lackey Moody

Republicans will need to win at least 3 of these 12 races along with the 10 races that are safe or lean their way to hold their majority. Democrats could potentially retake the majority, but will need to win all 12 races that are safe or lean their way plus pick up 11 out of the 12 toss-up races – a tough task.

Of course, it is mathematically possible – although improbable – that Republicans win 2 of the 12 and Democrats win 10 of 12 creating a 50-to-50 split chamber. If that happens, things will get interesting.

I should note here that there are also 3 hotly contested State Senate races.

In Conway, Republican incumbent Sen. Jason Rapert should easily beat Democrat Tyler Pearson; in Batesville, an open close race between Republican former Rep. Linda Collins-Smith v. Democratic Rep. James McLean; and in Paragould, Democratic incumbent Sen. Robert Thompson will likely win a rematch with Republican Blake Johnson.

However, Republicans already have 21 of 35 seats without these 3 races, so the majority in the Senate is not at stake.

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